High Holy Pay Day

Shawn Shafner
March 3, 2013
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On Yom Kippur, our soul’s slate is cleansed before the one, united God. On April 15th, our bank accounts are cleansed before the United States Government. The parallels don’t end there, however.

The weeks leading up to these fateful days present many opportunities for reflection. How might I have wronged others this past year? Did I make oaths I did not intend to keep? Have I committed acts of charity, and did I remember to keep the tax-deductible receipts?

I have always secretly enjoyed tax season. Having filed as an independent for some years now, my process has accrued its own codified sacred rituals. I imagine them as if given to me by God, passed down on 1099 tablets of stone.

  1. Thou shalt ask for for a record of all thy purchases. Thou shalt inscribe a sacred label at the top of each receipt so that thou wilt remember wherefore the item was acquired. Thou shalt fold thy receipts in half and store them in the pocket of thy wallet. When the receipts number five, thou shalt remove them from thy wallet and place them in the sacred magazine rack that sits to the right of thy desk, facing Jerusalem. When thou hast made a purchase online, thou shalt file thy digital record, as received through thy sacred Gmail, in the folder marked ‘receipt.
  2. All through the year, thou shalt sift through thy mail and gather unto thy bosom envelopes that measure not standard #10, but yeah, larger, even to the extent of one cubit or more. Thou shalt place the envelopes in thy magazine rack.
  3. Thou shalt email thy Kohen, the accountant, no later than February 28 in order to schedule thy appointment of atonement. If thou dost not email by February 28, thou shalt risk atoning at a time inconvenient to thyself. For remember that thy Kohen is a very busy man, and tis his season of utmost busy-ness. Yeah, remember thy accountant and observe his season or thou shalt suffer great losses at the closing of the Treasury Gates, April 15.
  4. In the week preceding thy appointment, thou shalt sit on thy bed and pull the covers down, so that nay but the fitted sheet tis showing. Upon thy fitted sheet thou shalt sit, and before ye thou shalt arrange the sacred envelopes. Each envelope thou wilt mark in darkest ink of Sharpie, and number all of thy categories of spending. Yeah, from A to Z thou shalt label them according to the costs thou hast accrued from thy honest business dealings. Thou shalt collect thy records inside the envelope that best defines their purpose according to thy honest business.
  5. Whilst thou art organizing thy sacred records of purchase upon thy fitted sheet, thou shalt raise thy voice in sacred song to the Creator of Roads, Municipal Water and Public Schools. Thou knowst how the sound of musical theater are pleasing to the Lord, and thus ye may sing Rodgers and Hammerstein, Miss Saigon, or selections from My Fair Lady. Thou mayst also listen to National Public Radio, but only if thou hast also a receipt of contribution to thy local station.
  6. Thou shalt collect also thy sacred forms numbering W2 and 1099. Thou shalt pay special attention to thy 1099s, for through them your labor hast not yet been accounted unto Me. Mine eye shall not look kindly upon he who conceals his utmost income from Me. Thou shalt also collect thy forms bearing witness to interest paid on student loans, and losses according to thy properties and mortgages. Yeah, do not forget these nor other forms relevant to thy judgment, or thou shalt witness first hand the wrath of mine IRS audit.
  7. Take thee thy envelopes and open the sacred Excel spreadsheet that thy forefathers brought forth from Egypt. Forsake not the Excel spreadsheet, for thine technology I giveth and taketh away. Enter ye every total that appeareth on thy receipts, each in columns according to its envelope. Thou shalt honor each column according to its contents, and bless it =(sum). Thus shalt ye add thy totals, each according to its column. And for the column which thou callest “business meals,” thou shalt cleave thy total in twain for that is the number accountable to The Lord.
  8. As the midnight oil burneth within My eternal lamps, yeah even though thy holy appointment doth loom in mere hours and thy Kohen awaiteth with gleaming ephod and calculator, thou shalt remember thy records stored in thy Gmail and account for them in the spreadsheet of affliction. Even as the cock doth crow to greet the morning, and the coffee doth drip behind thy bodega counter, thou shalt examine even thy checkbook, and remember its numbers within the accorded columns. When thou hast accounted all that thee hast earned and spent, print thee thy spreadsheet and collect its pages with My most holy forms and records. Prepare thee also thy checkbook and credit cards; through these wilt thou present thy penitent offerings, yeah even unto a great amount, equal to the purchasing of one hundred lattes. This atonement must ye give unto the Lord.
  9. When the time of holy reckoning comes, and thou hast cast thy eyes upon the Kohen, thou shalt bless him. Rest thyself upon the seat of judgment and make thee small talk. Those that know the welfare of thy Kohen’s children and grandchildren shall be eternally blessed before My Glory. Await thee thy Kohen’s judgment with patience, whilst offering sweet supplications to My mercy. Answer thee all thy Kohen’s questions with truthful tongue, and enjoy thy complimentary coffee with supplications of gratitude, burnt though it may be.
  10. When thy judgment is delivered and the cost of penitence proclaimed, weary your Lord not with cries and complaints, nor beat thy brow or berate thy Kohen. Thou shalt offer sacrificial atonement with blessings and a smile, for thou knowest well thy Creator’s benevolent mercy. Yeah, now and forever, in Govt We Trust.
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Shawn Shafner is a theatre-maker, educator, and creator of The People's Own Organic Power Project (www.thePOOPproject.org), an arts and education organization that promotes critical conversations about sustainable sanitation for the person, planet and world community. He is the recipient of a 2005 Spielberg Fellowship, and has been creating original ritual theater and educational programs with Storahtelling ever since. Shawn has created and facilitated educational programs for all ages, from early childhood audiences to elderly populations. He is currently artist-in-residence at the JCC Manhattan Preschool, works with underprivileged NYC school students as a teaching artist with Arts for All, and writes curriculum for Think-Build-Live Success, a self-empowerment, life skills and employment preparation program in career colleges. Shawn holds a BFA in Drama from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and has trained as an actor in Russia at the St. Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy, the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, and the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Italy. He spent most of 2008 touring nationally as Pablo in Nickelodeon's The Backyardigans Live!, and his NYC acting credits include performances at Madison Square Garden, Theater Row, Joe's Pub, The Club at La Mama, and Classic Stage Company.

1 Comment

  1. So clever. So funny. I just had my Kohen appointment. With great trembling and fear I presented myself and all my records. I have accounted to the US Government. Thank heaven it is over.

    I have shared this column with all my Jewish friends and, Yeah, even posted it on the facebook.

    Thank you, Shawn!

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    Katherine Zuckerman
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